Review by Zorlond

Reviewed: 08/17/00 | Updated: 08/17/00

What happened to 'Strategy first'?

On the surface, Metal Fatigue is a step towards what I hope RTS games will eventually become. Giant robots (in this game, refered to as 'combots') duking it out with gatling guns, energy cannons, and laser katanas, all in an RTS interface. Once you get below the surface, however, you realize that it's also taken several steps BACK. This game forces players to adopt one of two possible strategies. One, hit the enemy hard, and most importantly, FAST. The alternative is to be drawn into an endless, mindless bloodbath with no apparent goal in sight.

Actually, that's not quite true. It's more of an oil + lube bath. We're talking about giant robots here, and watching an unending stream of combots getting torn to shreds isn't even as satisfying as a bloodbath. What causes this colossal flaw? Simple. There's only one real resource available (metajoules), and there is an -endless- supply of it. You get this stuff from two sources, lava pools and sunlight, and while the lava pools do eventually peter out, they tend to regenerate with time. And the sunlight never stops.

Resource bungling aside, the graphics are a beautifull display of what can be done with time and effort. The combots are built in segments, so each one tends to have a unique appearance, depending on what parts were used. They also behave uniquely, swinging their weapons differently depending on what they have in hand. Even if one of them is reduced to just a shield (limbs tend to get cut off a lot), they'll hunch down and do shield-charges in melee combat. Unfortunately, this customizability has it's weak points as well, the first being the time spent coming up with a suitable configuration. The second is that, while you are able to send salvage teams out to recover parts that have been scattered about and use them yourselves, this tends to make your army appear very 'patched together'. Each of the three sides has a unique appearance, and while it might be nice to use a MilAgro hammer with a Neuropa sniper laser and a RimTech armoured torso, the end result is an army that looks like rejects from the School Science Fair of Seccaucus. Technically, you could research the pieces you find and build your own, with your side's appearance, but I've never been one to waste what I have.

And you will be tempted to do exactly the same. Remember I said limbs tend to get chopped off in a fight? It happens a -lot-, and with the endless horde knocking on your door, your front lawn will quickly become one massive junkyard. And trying to find the one part you're interested in in that mound of scrap metal is nearly impossible, so you end up dragging the whole lot in and hoping to get what you need, and not more @#%$ing Neuropa electro-grips!

The three levels of play just add frustration to the whole batch, as the game moves so quickly it's difficult to control an army on three fields. Blasting a mass of solar panels in orbit with your fighters, while defending your base on the ground with and against combots, and trying to force the enemy out of the underground cavers can put a strain on anyone. Of course, the AI has no problem with it, and will happily hit you on all three maps simultaneously.

Ah, the AI. I strongly suspect that there are some serious AI cheats going on in this game. I think that about a lot of RTS games, I admit, but this is the first one I'll gladly accuse in writing. While this game does have the standard ground units in addition to the combots (a tank, a missile truck, artillery, etc), the gameplay balance is so heavily in favor of the combots, they're practically worthless (except underground, the combots can't even go to that map). I set up four gun turrets aided by a half-dozen artillery and a dozen tanks, and one low-grade combot waltzes in and junks the lot of them. I send in a half-dozen combots of my own into the enemy base, encounter exactly the same amount of resistence, and next thing I know, -two- pilot teams make it back to my base ON FOOT to report their buddies' deaths.

Unless you're a veteran blitz player with masochistic tendancies, don't bother with this game. It only gets a 5 from me because it's nice eye-candy, and I've got a soft spot for giant robots. Otherwise it'd only get a 2.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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